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Variety of topics discussed at quarterly CEO meeting

From city annexation and intermodal transportation facilityplans to county efforts to get a new access road to Co-Lin, localofficials touched on a variety of topics Monday during thequarterly Community Elected Officials meeting.

Annexation was on the minds of newly-elected Aldermen BobMassengill and Les Bumgarner, who represented the city at themeeting along with new Police Chief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson.Massengill expressed some early reservations about a proposed newannexation plan, which aldermen got a copy of at their July 3meeting.

“It looks to me at first blush that the plan won’t fly,”Massengill said, mentioning areas that are not included in theproposed annexation area.

Massengill did not give any examples of excluded areas. However,a map targets areas mainly south and west of the current city forinclusion while northern areas, such as Brignall, are not.

The alderman cautioned, though, that he had not heard annexationconsultants’ justifications for the plan. Annexation consultantMike Slaughter is scheduled to speak to city officials at tonight’sboard meeting.

“Annexation is a big issue,” Bumgarner said, adding thatredistricting of alderman wards must also be addressed.

New census totals dropped the city’s population under 10,000. Ifthat stands, ward lines would have to be redrawn for five aldermeninstead of the current seven.

Bumgarner also mentioned a recent cable television rateincrease. He said the city’s hands were somewhat tied, but he hadbeen getting some calls on the issue.

“It’s a concern of a lot of senior citizens,” Bumgarnersaid.

Elsewhere, City Engineer Carl Ray Furr said $2 million has beenearmarked for the city’s intermodal facility in a federalappropriations bill currently in the mark-up stage before Congress.The facility, which would house train, bus and other transportationservices, would be the fourth in the state behind Meridian, Jacksonand one on the coast, Furr said.

“It’s not final, final until September,” Furr said about thefacility funding. “If it gets through committee, it’s a good chanceit’ll be in there.”

Furr also mentioned a new fire protection loop for WhitworthCollege and the Mississippi School of the Arts. He said officialsare close to being able to award a bid for the work to upgradewater lines around the campus.

“We’ll have a strong fire system to protect the college,” Furrsaid.

Wearing his county engineer hat, Furr said $2 million has beenearmarked at the Mississippi Department of Transportation to reworkMt. Zion Road as a new direct route from Interstate 55 toCopiah-Lincoln Community College. Furr said he hopes to determine aroute this year and begin construction next year.

“I’m really excited about that direct line in to the college,”said District 2 Supervisor Bobby J. Watts.

Furr also mentioned a $1.8 million to $2 million bridge projectin Bogue Chitto. Pending right of way acquisition, he hoped to havethe bridge under construction in January or February.

“We’re well under way with a lot of bridge projects,” Furrsaid.

New property values were on the minds of several countyofficials. Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak indicated a cautiousapproach.

“We’re going to take our time and do it right,” Moak said.

Tax Assessor-Collector Nancy Jordan also expressed a desire foraccuracy in the process.

“We want values to be high, but we want everyone to pay theirfair share,” she said. “That’s what we’re working on now.”

Elsewhere, Henderson said there had been a smooth transition inthe police department, and the department was looking forward toaddressing future challenges. Both he and Sheriff Lynn Boyteexpressed concerns about the loss of trained personnel.

“I’m a little troubled when people are leaving law enforcementand can double or triple their salaries in the private sector,”Boyte said as Henderson shook his head in agreement. “We need tosomewhere down the line address that.”

While not a private sector loss, Henderson said one officergraduated the law enforcement academy in June and was with thedepartment one week before going to the Lawrence County Sheriff’sDepartment.

In state matters, Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett said teen tavernwork is about to proceed on the Whitworth campus for the artsschool.

“Everything is on schedule with the school of the arts,” Barnettsaid.

Also, Barnett said a fund-raising foundation for the school hasreceived certification from the Internal Revenue Service. Thefoundation’s first meeting is planned for the first week inAugust.

“They’ve got their work cut out for them,” said Barnett, addingthat private fund-raising will be important for the future of theschool.

Barnett also urged city aldermen to support the airport andexpansion of a state crisis center.

Barnett’s son, Paul, is chairman of the airport board and isscheduled to meet with aldermen tonight to discuss the facility.Barnett said the airport is an “economic tool” to use in attractingbusiness.

Barnett said the crisis center is expected to need another fiveacres for the facility on Brookman Drive Extension. He urgedofficials to support the effort.

“It’s so important to us,” Barnett said.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said the center is needed when amental patient has to be committed. With no space in statehospitals, he said the only alternative has been jail.

“We’ve got to have something like that or we’ll be in a bind,”Bishop said.